By Janet Ekstract
İSTANBUL- The Ninth Summit of the Americas is meeting this week June 6-10 in Los Angeles, California in the U.S. which marks the first time since the inaugural summit in 1994, that the summit is being held there. The summit which meets once every three years is an opportunity for world leaders and heads of government as well as NGOs and other diverse groups to weigh in on crucial issues affecting the Western Hemisphere now.
The summit theme for 2022 is Building a Sustainable, Resilient, Equitable Future with the purpose of the summit focus on democratic countries and promoting democratic values across the Western hemisphere. As White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained in a press briefing on Monday, President Biden’s goal is to gather leaders from democratic countries at the Summit of the Americas and that dictators are not invited. This year’s summit saw Cuba and Venezuela excluded which resulted in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador making the decision not to attend. Mexico’s leader Manuel Lopez-Obrador opted to boycott the summit because all leaders from the Western Hemisphere were not invited. Vice-President of the Council of the Americas Eric Farnsworth commented to ABC News on Lopez-Obrador!s absence “The President of Mexico is aligning himself with dictators, I would have hoped he would have come to deal with pressing issues” Farnsworth added that the purpose of The Summit of Americas is designed to be a grouping of democratic leaders across the hemisphere and that a democratic charter to that effect was signed off on in 1994. He added that countries that are not democratic are not eligible to participate.
On what can be expected from this year’s summit, Farnsworth told ABC News how the summit has changed over the years. Farnsworth said the difference between the summit in 2022 and 1994 is in stark contrast due to how world order has drastically changed. Farnsworth explained that 2022 is a very different time from the 90s where the goal was to organize the Western Hemisphere “on a strategic basis.” He explained that now “there are alternatives for the region.” Farnsworth commented: “We’re not the only superpower vying for the hearts and minds of the people in the Western Hemisphere.” He explained that countries in the region are now seeking ways to “establish that independence.”
When asked what the summit’s top priorities are likely to be, Farnsworth said that for the U.S. administration it will be migration which would include establishing a regional accord to limit those entering the U.S. at the border. He also said there will likely be an agreement on democracy and that it’s worth fighting for as well as a focus on healthcare and humanitarian relief. Farnsworth concluded, saying “hopefully there will be a dialogue put in place to continue these discussions that need to be had.” He also added that not every country views those issues as crucial for their nation because many countries see economy, investments and employment as more pressing issues.
Special attention at this year’s summit will focus on migration, climate change and inflation which is affecting every nation in various extremes. Since the first Summit of the Americas in 1994, Western Hemisphere leaders have made democracy the mainstay of their focus. This year is no exception with main areas of focus including free and fair elections, protection of human rights defenders, environmental defenders, journalists, worker, women and girls in all their diversity and members of vulnerable and marginalized groups. Other priorities will center on open government, combating corruption, anti-corruption reporting and oversight.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We have a responsibility also to speak up and speak out collectively when we see governments weakening democracy at home, clamping down on the free press, threatening political opponents, undermining the independence of the courts.” Blinken added: “The U.S. has planned the most inclusive Summit of the Americas in history, ensuring that civil society groups, leaders from the private sector will not just be included in the meetings in Los Angeles, they’ll be able to engage directly with the governments.” The U.S. priority at this year’s summit is upholding its own commitments including listening to the recommendations of diverse voices and supporting democracy, transparency and good governance.
Meanwhile, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru made commitments and set goals prior to the summit. Those include maintaining democratic values, promoting human rights and fighting the climate crisis. Besides government leaders, representatives from business entities and nongovernmental organizations will discuss their plans for strengthening and achieving these goals. There will also be a youth summit and a media summit.